- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2007

Right at the two-mile marker on Independence Avenue near the World War II Memorial, Teyba Erkesso decided to break away.

And the 24-year-old Ethiopian soon found that no other woman in the 35th running of the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile race yesterday was able to challenge her.

“When I am in good shape, I just go,” said Erkesso, who broke through the finishing tape in 51 minutes, 44 seconds, a new world record for 10 miles in an all-women’s race. The previous record of 52:11 was set here last year by Russian Lidiya Grigoryeva. Her time was the second fastest at Cherry Blossom to South African-turned-American Colleen De Rueck’s world record 51:16 in a mixed-gender race set here in 1998.

She won $6,750, the first prize of $6,000 plus a $750 time bonus for eclipsing 52 minutes.

Tadesse Tola of Ethiopia was a surprising winner in a close race on the men’s side in 46:01, marking the first time Ethiopians have won the men’s and women’s races and the first time an Ethiopian man has won since Worku Bikila in 1999. Kenya had taken the men’s race every year since.

Tola also shocked his countrymen in February with a triumph in the Ethiopian Cross Country Championships.

While it was not until near the end of his race that Tola broke away from his rivals in West Potomac Park, Erkesso made quick work of her competition.

With the elite women runners starting 10 minutes before the rest of the field — the second time that arrangement has been in place — the lead pack quickly fell apart after back-to-back 5:15 miles.

Erkesso, who is training for her debut marathon probably at Chicago this fall, took the pace down to 5:05 for the next two miles, when she moved a commanding 28 seconds in the lead.

Into Rock Creek Park, Erkesso continued to widen her lead. By the turnaround after a mellow climb of a couple of miles, her lead was some 42 seconds over Russian Tatyana Petrova.

Erkesso posted a time 71 seconds better than her only other 10-mile race, a runner-up time of 52:55 in this race in 2002.

Petrova finished second in 52:58, improving on her 2004 fourth-place showing in 53:31.

Tola, meanwhile, was in his Cherry Blossom debut. In fact, he was in his 10-mile debut and his American debut, arriving on U.S. soil for the first time March 28 hot off the March 25 World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, Kenya.

Listed by the IAAF as 19 years old, Tola beat favorites John Korir and Samuel Ndereba in a flurry of a kick once the finish line was in sight. His last mile was 4:29.

“It was good weather, good training,” Tola said.

John Yuda of Tanzania was second just three seconds back, and three-time champion Korir was third in 46:11, his best time in six appearances here.

Stephen Meinelt, 23, of the District and Victoria Jackson, 25, of Tempe, Ariz., were the top Americans and thus winners of the RRCA National 10-Mile Championships. Meinelt graduated from Georgetown last year and said he was running his first 10-mile race after qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials with a 2:18:15 debut in Houston in January.

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